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I Met Bile

Bile

One thing I particularly love about MMOs (well, the old experience for sure) is that you made bonds playing them. Those stopped for me when I stopped playing WoW, but I have several people as Facebook friends that I have never met in real life. There are a few that I can’t wait to, despite us not playing for years together. Those are some pretty solid bonds.

I travel for work so when I end up in a city where I have friends I like to see them. Fate would have it that I would meet my fellow Shadowblade from DAOC (circa early 2000’s) named Bile. Since we have been Facebook friends I had the general gist of his life, what he did, his wife, the things he did for fun – but it was special to sit down face to face, hug it out, and drink some solid and delicious beers together. We didn’t talk a ton about video games (both of us play far less) but when we did it was with a certain fondness and twinkle in the eye. Remember that one six hour session where we fought back and forth with the Hibs, nearly winning that first keep back on early testserver days on Pendragon? Yes. We both did. (I wiped on the keep master, but that is another story.)

I wonder if today’s gamer makes those bonds. I’d suggest no, since there is less time and human commitment with LFG’s, etc. But that isn’t fair for me to say since I barely play MMOs anymore – and the ones I do offer fantastic single player experiences.

X-Com 2

I bought it last night, but haven’t fired it up yet. I loved the original (the real original) and even played through the expansions. X-Com circa 2012 was a fantastic, friendly remake and I look forward to all I have read about the good of X-Com 2. Except the fast paced missions. I am such a planner and safe player that that will definitely be out of my element. I’m sure I will grow to appreciate it. Look at me, always on the cutting edge of new games!

Diablo III

I finally hit 70 in Diablo III and now have 15 Paragon levels. It’s been an easy to jump in and grind game with my son, and we have put in an hour a night several times the past week. I own both the PC and Console version but played it on the Console only – 60″ TVs and company is better on the big screen. I am regretting that now because there is no season play on consoles. Also, with all of the poor doom and gloom with Blizzard right now, why aren’t they making an expansion for this game? New class, new scenes, new money. I am sure people would pay for it!

I have a new blog being launched soon, but not about gaming. A new passion I have picked up! I’ll be announcing and releasing soon!

Birthdays and Forums

My birthday was yesterday!

I was reminded of such while driving home from a hockey game at 12:04 am by 2K forums. While I was appreciative of the well wishes I did have to chuckle a bit. The last time I posted or visited those forums was in 2008.

We at 2K Forums would like to wish you a happy birthday today!

Thank you 2K Forums. I did only sign up there to deal with a game breaking issue for me with Bioshock. Still, it’s the thought that counts! A good opportunity here would have been to say “we haven’t seen you in a long time, maybe some of these posts will interest you?”, or even “here is $10 off one of our games at Steam in celebration!”. A little silly to send me a one-liner during a marketing opportunity.

They weren’t the only ones – thank you Dungeon and Dragons Online!

We at Dungeons & Dragons Online Forums would like to wish you a happy birthday today!

Wait.. that looks awfully familiar. Are they sharing boards? Maybe using the same software? Aren’t you free to play now – why not give me a message to entice me to maybe download and try the game out again! Maybe some free currency to get me started! (I did really enjoy it at beta test and launch.) I don’t think I have played since then either.

Not to be outdone, a game that I played more than the others (and have tried to promote on this site often, even though I haven’t played in a while) was the good folks at the Project Reality Forums.

We at Project Reality Forums would like to wish you a happy birthday today!

I don’t remember the last time I posted there either, it has been so long. Although I did re-download the game recently. That message (besides being identical to the other two) could have been so much better with a “check out our latest patch / video / update” message as well.

Finally, I did get one from a board I have checked recently!

Happy Birthday from your friends at Cruisers Forum; we wish you all the best in the year to come.
May your boat be leak free.
May your sails be in good repair.
May the winds be fair, the weather kind and
May your days be filled with the exquisite pleasure of new adventures, fabulous destinations and excellent friendship.

Happy Birthday!

If they were selling anything, I’d probably buy it. Look, a modicum of effort was given. It probably took them 5 minutes to set that up. I have been toying with the idea of buying a sailboat so have been reading a lot there to understand what I would be getting myself into.

If a general interest forum can do that, companies that live or die off of sales probably could too. The constant reminder that for digitally native companies they leave a lot to be desired in terms of customer engagement. These are easy misses, low hanging fruit, and entry level marketing think.

My other takeaway here is how few forums I actually sign up for now (well, since 2008, apparently) since most information is more readily available elsewhere. Also, that a whole slew of other forums didn’t bother to wish me a happy birthday – probably because they sorted that I stopped visiting there at some point. In 2009 when I brought this up I had received birthday wishes from Pirates of the Burning Seas and Warhammer Online as well – but they have a fair excuse for missing it this year (and all years upcoming!)

Fallout 4 – The One Big Change

Fallout 4

I feel like a bad Blognation member right now, as I completely forget where this upcoming thought was inspired from. I did read it around the Blogosphere (and even commented on it, and fleshed it out a bit further), so this is driving me a bit nuts. Still, I felt it worth fleshing out just a bit more. (If I can remember, or if that Blogger comes here, please remind me so I can link appropriately!)Fallout 4 is my go to right now. Last night I decided to sit down and finish the main story line. And promptly became distracted, and did four other quests (by accident) before restarting the real, next quest in the storyline arc (and promptly running out of time and going to bed before I even moved the arc along one step). That is the fun (and danger) of Fallout 4. The letdown in that greatness is the travel system.

Like many games Fallout 4 has an instant travel system between points you have visited before. It destroys immersion. Last night (for example) I had a raid on one of my settlements where they called out for help. I was able to transport there instantly. I get that crossing huge swathes of danger infested wasteland is inconvenient. I also understand that I could have walked there if I had chosen to. The latter option also takes away from game play. There needs to be a balance. Even better, if there is a balance that enhances game play instead of taking away from it – and the solution is really easy.

Vehicles.

Vehicles in Fallout 4 would add an entirely new dimension. First off, those carcasses of vehicles all over the roads could now be moved and salvaged, adding a new element of game play (clearing roads between destinations) for faster travel times.  There should also be different levels (wheeled cars, hover vehicles, boats, etc.) that you can now build, maintain and use throughout. As you progress, you can open new and better vehicles (hello, vertibirds!) that either companions can support you with and even more reason to secure your settlements (you need somewhere to store them vehicles! I strongly feel that this type of travel in the game would really add to the game, create a better sense of urgency, and a fun mode of travel that could bridge the difference between hour long walk and instant teleportation.

World of Warcraft

I really have the itch to catch up in World of Warcraft. Not to raid or anything, but partially because I feel like I have unfinished business there – leaving my poor characters behind the leveling curve. Mists of Pandaria was the one expansion I spent the least amount of time in and I figure I could probably hop in Warlords and do the content I want to do in 30 days. All in all that’s not a bad proposition as I bought the expansion for 75% off. I also have a strong desire to catch up on all the raids that I couldn’t do, but can now solo. While I have often been sad about the class homogenization that gutted much of what was interesting in that game, some of Legion Class preview things have me very interested. The Outlaw spec of the rogue and the very clear separation of Hunter Specs (hello, Survival!) have me very interested in WoW for a change. I just struggle with that one, perfect character for me that I want to play. I think if WoW was able to satisfy my desires by providing a class that I loved (more on that in a second) or the ability to be different classes with a weapon switch (which is my now preferred MMO model type, since I do not have time for alts!) then I could still be playing.

My favored play style is 5 man dungeons. This means, to optimize my time in WoW I should tank. This is simple enough. Tanking isn’t always great for questing though, and if I do want to raid, I definitely wouldn’t be prepared as a tank. You need 1 tank for a 5 man and 2 for a 25 man. Main healing for 5 mans is also an option so the offspec is also important. Let’s look at the classes I have:

Paladin (Isee) has been my main 5 man tank the past couple expansions. I hate the healing style on the Paladin, and not a big fan of Ret. (At level 90)

Druid (Couchon) was my first character and my raiding main for most of my WoW life. I liked healing on the Druid but did not like either of the DPS specs. (at level 85). I always hated that new gear didn’t show up on bear form.

Shaman (Isey) became my main during the SSC raids as we were lacking Shaman and particularly the nicely powered Chain Heal. I switched then and quickly fell in love with the totems and style of the character. I also specced Enhance which was helluva lot of fun. My dream in WoW is to have Shaman as tanks, I would resub lifetime. (at level 85)

Rogue (Coosh) – favourite to level, but I hate long DPS queues for dungeons (if those things are still a thing.) I often level the Rogue first to learn the dungeons from a DPS perspective before tanking them. (at level 90)

Those are my high level characters. Currently leaning Druid.

The other interesting option, since I have a free level 90, is to go Warrior. I have a level 72 Warrior LLewella  (thanks Roger Zelazny). Tanking as a warrior is interesting, even moreso with the Gladiator option to do DPS as sword and board.  That is enticing. Unfortunately, that spec is leaving in Legion. I am getting way ahead of myself now.

The fact I am thinking (and reading, and writing) about WoW is a pretty telltale sign I’ll be back there soon. I just need to find the right mindset and class to dive back in.

Worst Enemies and Lists

Happy New Year!

I have been playing my same old boring games, but feel compelled to update briefly. This post is composed of two subject matters, and two lists!

Gaming List

  1. Fallout 4: I am 45 hours in and just went back to the main story line. I just did the Glowing Sea, as a point of reference for those who have finished the main story arc (I have no clue if that makes me close or far away..). It is so easy to get sidetracked in that game and I absolutely love exploring and following breadcrumbs. Still, that makes me feel like a terrible father as I do have an abducted son out there somewhere I should go find. Oh look! Meat sacks! What could possibly be in THAT building?
  2. EQ TLP: Cabby my Wizard is level 8 now and done Orc Hill, and about to enter Crushbone. I love the zen of grind in EQ. I still think I am going to unsubscribe for a bit. I hate feeling like I am not getting time in to justify a subscription, so it is one of those titles where I may sub for a month, take one off, go back, etc.
  3. WoW. Yes, WoW. 75% off Draenor made me buy that, but I haven’t resubbed. Add to that I actually had a good experience with a CSR from Blizzard (shocker!) and received 7 days free time. My wife goes away on a business trip next Tuesday which gives me 4 uninterrupted nights of gaming. I am going to go back to WoW to play in WoD. No clue who I am taking through, probably my Paladin so I can tank 5 mans. If 5 mans are still a thing. I wish Shaman were tanks..

Lifestyle List

Continuing with my “I has health” theme I am going to caution you on who will become your worst enemies if you decide to go down the path of living a healthier lifestyle. This list may be a little sad. This is in order from not so bad to absolute worse. Without further ado – my ‘Worst Enemies” list, from personal experience.

  1. Your friends. We all have them, those really fun, awesome friends. One of mine, who likes to drink 10+ beer a night on weekends is constantly and incessantly harassing me for only drinking three or four a night with him over the same time period. Three or four is actually a lot. I have learned self control. I like beer. I like friends. I just don’t feel the need to get out of control, completely plastered, and make an ass out of myself (and feel equally as terrible the next day.) Oh, I still have my benders – but I pick and choose those nights. I don’t want to do them regularly. Really special occasions, etc. You will have people who don’t want to change their lifestyle pick on you for changing yours. The answer to them: ” I don’t judge you for your lifestyle, don’t judge me for mine. We’re friends. I support that you like to cut loose. Support me that I want to tighten it up.” Worst case scenario: you make new friends that align more with your values. It shouldn’t have to come to this, and if it does, it is on them, not you.
  2. Your spouse/significant other. If you already have one, and they are comfortable with you and your life. I have had my wife (of all people) tell me she now finds me unattractive. I am too skinny. I care too much about what I eat (I drink wine and eat peanut butter cups daily!). I get up too early (and workout, then take the dogs out, then make breakfast for everyone, and lunch for school for my son, and coffee for her, all before she steps out of bed 2.5 hours later than me). Sounds like a pretty good deal. Still, to be fair, she has gained weight while I lost it – so she is probably trying to tear me down instead of build herself up because she isn’t happy with herself. You may face the same obstacle. The answer to them: “Let’s do this together. Just try a couple times a week with me. Start slow and see if you like it”. Worst case scenario: it is actually kind of scary to think that you have to choose between improving your personal health and lifestyle and someone you love. Divorce isn’t something that anyone wants to explore so you really need to find common ground. Just don’t sacrifice a long and healthy life to keep that.
  3. Yourself. Probably not a big surprise, but you are the one person who can most easily and efficiently stop you on your own journey. That is a sad truth. As Henry David Thorough once said “Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. what a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates, his fate.” Scary stuff to face against – yourself. The answer to you: “I will do my best and take small steps to get to the long term goal I want. I want to live a long and rewarding life. I choose to own my health and wellness.” Worst case scenario: You fall down and fail. Often. The best part is, you control whether you get back up or not.

The good news of all of this is that it gets easier. It really does. The negative voices get quieter as you surround yourself with people that now understand, or new people. Your body gets less sore with each effort. You get into a routine where being active is just as normal as eating and breathing. You just have to start and not give up.

Day One is Tomorrow

I last posted about how I am going to post more about my personal health journey and things I learned that worked for me. This is very fitting being New Years Eve today, with a whole host of resolutions to be made by a big chunk of the world to start tomorrow!

And most of them fail.

That is because a lot of the goals aren’t realistic, and besides, people don’t really want to do them, they just know that they should. When I was a smoker I tried quitting a dozen times. The first 11 I didn’t even really want to quit, but I knew that I should. So I’d say I was quitting, make it anywhere from a day to a month, and then do what I really wanted to do. I really wanted to smoke. It wasn’t until I truly wanted to quit smoking that I did – and deep down I knew it was time, and I was looking forward to stopping. I quit and never lit up again. I don’t even remember being a smoker now.

That is what happens during resolutions. People say what they think they want, or what they think other people want for them, and make that a goal. If you don’t feel it deep down in your core that you truly want to do something or make that change then don’t say that you will. Be honest with yourself.

All that being said, if you want to make healthy changes, here are my three  simplest tips:

  1. Start tomorrow. The next day is always Day One. You don’t need to plan for a year from now. You can set a longer term goal, sure, but really, just set a goal for the next day. That way when you slip up and “fail” a day (which you eventually will!) you just reset and go the next day. Some days I would wake up and plan on working out but didn’t have it in me and I would play video games instead. You have to let yourself have the room to enjoy the things you love, but don’t use them as an excuse to skip your goals.
  2. Wake up early. Even those times when I meant to work out and didn’t, I still got out of bed. I know that can be hard for a lot of late night gamers but I started waking up at 6am, then 5:30, and now 5:00 – and I still go to bed at the same time. When you are healthier you sleep better. I get 6.5 hours a night and it feels like I get 9 hours that I used to take. When the rest of the world is asleep your time is yours. No kids, no spouse, no work. That is your time to rise and shine.
  3. It’s the journey not the destination. You read about these huge changes that happen “overnight” but those are often years of dedication. Don’t get caught up in the end goal, get focused on the next day, Day One.

I am going to post by “before” and “after”. I didn’t take a proper before (honestly, I didn’t feel good enough to!) and before I do, I want to make one thing clear: I am a bit uncomfortable posting this (I always have been in my own skin) but also this is not to be vain or “look at me” – but it is just to show what small steps lead to. Besides, I don’t even care about how my body looks now – what I do care about is how I feel about myself now.

On the left I was 38, 230 lbs, smoked a pack a day. I did some sports like Hockey, but I’d play for an hour and then drink 4 beer and eat 2 pounds of chicken wings. (I still play hockey, and I still drink beer after the game.) On the left, I was incredibly unhappy with almost everything in my life. I was borderline depressed. I smoked first thing when I got up and last thing when I went to bed. I wasn’t attentive to my child. I was unhappy and self absorbed. I ate out a lot.

On the right, just a month ago, I am 41 and 180 pounds. I don’t smoke. I still love wine with dinner and beer with friends, but I eat better. I love cooking and make sure I have leftovers that I can take for lunch the next day to work so I don’t eat out. I eat healthy but delicious food. I actually like Broccoli.

The left to right transformation wasn’t overnight, it took three years, and I took small steps along the way.

First step (year one)  was to work on my diet and try to be more active. Just 2-3 times per week. That’s it. At that you aren’t going to see any big changes anytime soon and that isn’t the point – the point is to create new habits. Go out for an hour walk, get on a treadmill, elliptical, etc. Just make sure you start moving more often every week. Start finding good foods to eat that you like and cook with less butter and salt (less, not none!). Make small steps.

Second step (year two) was to increase the intensity and frequency of my workouts. Instead of cardio, I started doing HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) such as Insanity, etc. They lasted 45 minutes and I could barely finish them, but I did the best I could. I also started doing some weights (what I felt I could handle). I still had a sweet tooth but didn’t deny myself anything – I just made sure I balanced it with good workouts.

Third step (last 12 months), where I am at today, is a 5 day a week 45 minutes per day mid to heavy compound exercise routine, with hockey 2x a week (on top of it) AND I do cardio a couple times a week if I feel like it. Always under an hour. It doesn’t feel like work it is complete ME time. I get up at 5:00 am, have a coffee and read news, etc. until 5:30, and then work out until 6:30 – and my family doesn’t get up until 7:00 – 7:15. By then I have breakfast ready for everyone, lunches packed for school, dogs fed and taken out.

And I feel amazing.

My outlook on life has changed. I eat what I want when I want, including sweets and eating out, but I balance that with being active and eating healthy foods (that I now LOVE! – I never thought I could eat broccoli. now it is one of my favourites. It took a lot of time to get there.)

At times, especially end of year one and into year two I would get frustrated. I didn’t feel great. I didn’t look different. It took me a while to change my perspective that I’d have abs and pecs after light workouts and cardio. I’d beat up on myself when I became lazy or skipped workouts. I had the wrong perspective. I am really glad I stuck with it because at some point my perspective about everything changed and I realized I was doing this to be healthy, live a longer, more fulfilling life, and be happier – not to look like a fitness model. After that things became a lot easier. Getting up was easier. It became fun. It became routine, and once it was routine it became easy.

It took three years. You won’t change overnight and you won’t change on a resolution – but I promise you if start taking small steps you can get to where you want to be.

Day One is tomorrow.

I Has Happy Holidays!

Hi Everyone.

Just a quick note – I am on a beach right now not thinking about blogging, but spending time with my family and thinking about the world. There is so much unrealized potential and I hope as a global community we start treating each other the way we need to.  I wish nothing but the absolute best to you and your family, and I say that with the utmost sincerity. Lets all focus on being better people, and better to those around us. That small initiative will spread quite far and wide if everyone just treated everyone within ten feet of them with the respect and dignity human beings deserve.

Cheers my friends, both old and yet to be. May the upcoming year be the one step of many.

You don’t have to wear a cape to be somebody’s hero.

As Always,

Isey (Chris)

I HAS PC, Life and Interwebs

Where to Fit(bit) In!

Blogging has been a struggle as of late – I am playing four games, four of which are “out of date”, and I am plodding along at my own pace within them. I am not discovering anything new about these games (or myself playing them) and all of that adds up to the deeper questions of “where do I fit in” and “can I produce anything worth reading” in and for Blognation. High School all over again! Thankfully now that I am in my 40’s I do not have the care or worry about what other people think of me, because you get to that point in your life where you just realize you are what you are and you have what you have. This goes to most things physical, emotional, and spiritual at this stage. Perhaps that realization is enough to share and the young whipper snappers can appreciate that! Although there are far more persons with far more wise views on life in general, and as already mentioned, I am at peace with that.

Should I write about my EQ Wizard grinding CB again (for joy and levels), my level 16 max-charisma persona in Fallout 4 saving the wasteland (one cleared out building at a time), my new Ranger in Pillars of Eternity sorting out what it is he needs to sort out, or my Sword/Fist Templar plodding through Egypt in TSW? This is where my foreseeable gaming is taking me – I am enjoying each in the bite sizes I have and do not feel the need to venture into anything new. I am more likely to go in the other direction and go to older titles that are sitting installed.  This makes me a pretty terrible gaming commentator (writing style, grammar, and other generalities aside!) although I have still been poking my nose into other blogs to comment here and there. I love consuming community generated content.

So I am venturing into some newer territory and will be trying some posts on the ‘Life’ part of the tagline of the blog (‘Life and Interwebs’) and talk about things I have learned about health. Not just physical health, but mental and emotional as well. Oh, I’ll tie it into gaming where I can and where it makes sense, but Arywen noted once that gamers typically (or stereotypically?) tend to use their spare time to game instead of eating healthy and/or using their time to exercise. I am in the food industry (healthier for you fast casual) and have made health important in my life. Not above all else, but it is there as part of my life balance. And it wasn’t always that way.

in 2013 I was 230 pounds and smoked a pack a day. I loved smoking. I smoked the first thing when I woke up, and last thing before I went to bed. I was active in some sports (baseball and hockey) but those were largely leagues based around “beer” and camaraderie. Skate for an hour and then drink 4-6 beer and eat 2 lbs of chicken wings. The activities after the athletics not only completely negated the activity itself, but probably everything active for the entire day. I didn’t sleep well, I didn’t manage stress well, I didn’t eat well, and although I was a generally pleasant person to be around, I wasn’t really happy. I had a great job. I had a great kid. My wife and I weren’t really connected but we had a good life together. Things just fit out of balance.

Fast forward to today and I do an activity nearly every single day. I get up at 5:00am and exercise before the rest of my family gets up. I cook everyday, and make food that tastes amazing AND is healthy too. I am going to share a lot of my journey with you here, in bits and pieces and what I feel is relevant. Maybe it will inspire you to make small, positive changes in your life. Maybe you don’t care and are already completely happy with where you are in your life. I promise nothing here but to share my honesty on what I do and who I am, and how I feel it has benefited me. I am in the best place in my life, for the most part, and it has had a positive outlook on my stress, my relationships, my work, my free time, and overall, my outlook on life. I will share mindsets, workouts, heck, even recipes! Plus whatever good habits I think I have developed that are worth sharing. The main starting point is that it has been a long journey, I am far from perfect, but focus on it every day and feel like I moving in the right direction. I am not not a doctor or professional trainer, so take any advice through that lens.

Starting small here, and tying it back to the title, I bought a Fitbit. Not just for myself, but for my entire corporate team (45 of them). “Gamifying” health is one easy way to get gamers started. Fitbit has a clear set of daily goals (that you can set for your own pace) that is in simple format, and covers all aspects of basic health. Number of steps, glasses of water, calories burned, hours of sleep, number of floors climbed, daily activity minutes, and miles walked. It is on your phone or on a webpage and is just a constant, small reminder of some small but important things you should be doing everyday. The fun part has also been tracking how things I do affect my body. Here, for example, is one night when I played hockey (complete with a picture of me playing hockey, which Fitbit doesn’t do)

Now I am pretty sure the Fitbit slid over my taped wrist at that big drop off, but other than that is neat to see. Generating interest is part of generating habits – you get interested in a game and you play. So, as a motivator, the Fitbit has been a hit. Same for the team – you see people challenging each other and pushing each other to be more active. It has been fun to see. It will be even more interesting to see how long that effect lasts. I’ll still talk about gaming that feels right to talk about, and this isn’t a wholesale change in blog format or anything – just a newer focus I am going to play on some posts with in the new year. I have a vacation coming up (hot, island, far south!) but it will be fun to step into this just in time for everyone’s resolutions in the new year.

Santa Isn’t Real

Well, the cat is out of the bag.

Oh, not for me. I knew about that a long time ago. Give me some credit.

My 10 year old asked the big question last night as we were getting him ready for bed. He is in a grade 5/6 split class (due to Ontario regulations on class sizes it’s a weird setup this year – there are 4 split classes) and some of the grade 6 kids were letting other, younger kids in on the ‘scam’. I knew this question was coming eventually and had prepared myself somewhat for it. Instantly, after the question, I wanted to draw from my own experiences – how did I feel when i found out for the first time, and I couldn’t recall it at all. I have either completely suppressed the experience and it could/will come out in some devious personality quirk and/or moment of high stress and/or weakness, or it really wasn’t that eventful to me to begin with. I am hoping for the latter.

The conversation went pretty smooth. (using a lot of Sons and Dads in the language to clearly outline who is talking. We don’t talk to each other that way normally, just illustrative purposes!)

“Dad, is Santa real?”

“No, he isn’t.”

<cue tears bursting out>

“Son, its okay. I know this is hard to understand.” <hugs and fatherly comfort>

“Dad, I just feel so stupid. I used to get so excited when I got a Santa gift. It meant I was good to people and things and now I just feel so dumb”

“Son, it is important to realize the spirit of Christmas and why we do that to begin with. Maybe in the old days there really was a man who made and gave gifts out to all the good little kids, but what is important to live on is that we need to be good to one another, take care of your family, and appreciate each other. That is what the spirit of Santa is all about. And now that you know that.”

“Dad – you are telling me you would buy yourself gifts from Santa too, why would you do that?”

“It was to ensure you believed that Mom and Dad were good too.”

“Where did you hide everything Dad?”

“Not telling you son, we still use those spaces to hide other things. Surely you can see that one person, even magical, couldn’t do every single house in the world in a night, and that parents have to band together to make that happen. Magic still exists but often it is just in the way people treat one another positively.”

“What about the Easter Bunny Dad?”

“That’s me too. Kind of creepy to think there is a bunny running around our house when we are sleeping, no?”

“The Tooth Fairy came and left me $20 just last week….”

“That’s me too Son. And I didn’t have anything smaller. Trust me, I heard it from the other parents about that one too..”

And we sat and talked for a while about a whole host of topics around holidays and the things parents do to make them special for their kids. It was a really good conversation. I told him that every kid learns this at their own time and place and to try and keep it special for other kids until they learn from their parents. Some learn of this really young, some older, everyone has their own time frame. He knows there are kids on his hockey team that still do and decided that it was best to let them enjoy it while they could.

My son is also a bit of a smartass sometimes, and the next day when he was waiting for his bus outside of our house and I drove past him to go to work I put my window down, told him that I loved him and that I hoped he had an awesome day at school and that I would see him afterwards.

He replied:

“Thanks Santa”

gave a huge smile, and off I went.

Maybe he is going to turn out ok afterall.

The EQ True Box Server

I thoroughly enjoyed my foray onto my first TLP server when Ragefire and Lockjaw were recently launched. I made a few posts about it and stepped away due to learning that a new server would be launching soon – and did not want to “lose” my time investment. At the time I left EQ it was the first game I had paid a subscription for since WoW a few years ago, and it was a great investment. The “fun” return on a 1999 based game for all intents and purposes is quite ironic in this current world of amazing and free games. The hook was initially nostalgia, but afterwards, it just proved to be a better game for my tastes.

So, with the December 9 launch of the Phinigal Server I am proudly announcing my return to EQ. Again. And for a long haul.

Starting in three months.

This time the expansions are locking at a rate of 90 days, no vote. This is great. I hope they stop expansions before craziness of mercenary NPCs (and whatnot) make it into the game, but who knows. The 90 day start time for me is my always conundrum of what-character-to-play-AND-STICK-WITH-THIS-TIME and to which i have it down to Enchanter or Wizard. Kunark starts in 90 days, Enchanters get Breeze at 16 in that scenario, and leveling to 30 just got infinitely better. If I sell myself on the Wizard (which was the most fun I had in EQ in forever) then I start early – if not, I get 90 days to avoid over camping (and finish off Fallout 4). Or, if I be sensible and roll a Cleric for free groups and loots I can start right away too.

The True Box server is actually being supported by the program makers of multi box software. I was digging deep on some googling threads where the owners of the programs were encouraging their paying users to not violate the ToS  on the new server. Some even publically announcing they wouldn’t be using their time to write code to fix any blocks Daybreak puts up. A prominent dev of that software even mentions he thinks that it could bring down EQ boxing completely on all servers if they push hard on the Phinigal server, when there are every other server you can box on at Daybreak’s support. Fun and odd balance that relationship is, and will be fascinating to see how things play out.

To clarify, all True Box means is that multi-boxing on one PC is now banned – you can pull out 3 separate laptops with three keyboards and still do it.

Gaming life is good – Fallout 4 is fun for what it is, TSW continues to drive a great single player experience stuck in an MMO (imagine if it was built like Fallout where your choices impacted the world permanently and you could actually solve some of these mysteries? Missing out on a huge opportunity!), Star Wars: Battlefront is a great time waster and soon I’ll have EQ to itch my true MMO gaming desires.  I find myself with not much to add to the conversation, but also nothing to complain about. I’ll take that.

Merry Go Rounds

Choice is an amazing feeling, even if you just end up going around in circles. During lapses in gaming passion (when you have that new and shiny game to play) I often default to binge playing other games. And I love it!

First off was my return to the Darkest Dungeon. I did a multi-post piece on my adventures there until I “finished” what parts of the game were complete. Well, recently they opened up a brand new dungeon (The Cove), made some major changes (class adds) and even added other bosses to the existing dungeons. I had almost forgotten about the game until I was Steam surfing for something to play. I hadn’t unlocked The Cove high enough to face the top end boss, but the same version exists across all three level brackets so I sent in a team of not-so-awesome warriors to visit the Siren. She’s a beaut!

The siren uses her song to pull over one of your own team members for three rounds. This makes it interesting when you have your fun and powerful allies now trying to kill you. It’s an expected but fun mechanic. They also did a good job with the character art, making her real ugly until she uses her Song of Desire skill.

That’s far more attractive. If you like fish people. The fight wasn’t too challenging and on to another new boss, the Brigand Pounder.

Giant cannons are so not fair. I didn’t die in this battle but did have to retreat – I didn’t have the right combination of characters (or appropriate strategy) to win this fight. Thankfully, there are still more new bosses! The Fulminating Prophet!

Most of his prophetisizing (sp?) is that the ceiling is going to fall on your highlighted characters (and it does). The great parts of Darkest Dungeon continue to be the art style and resource management style of game play because they always throw in great twists. There are now diseases to go along with the quirks, more bosses to beat, more character types to level and more personalization. There is more here to complete than ever. However, with all the time I have pumped into it and being a bit of an old school player in it I just don’t find the challenge there anymore. Sure, I might not win a boss fight (the Pounder was the only one that gave me fits) but the danger of losing my team is never really there. I think it is because I built up so many resources in the original play through that I can fix and upgrade my team without having to make many tough choices.

As much as I enjoy this game based on that experience for me, I actually recommend not buying it until it is done. I will most likely plod through and finish The Cove at all levels and wait for the namesake dungeon to open and beat that too -but much of the challenge and initial mystery is now missing for me. Still, a spectacular experience for me from day one and a great early investment in a game still sorting itself out. The official launch date is  January 19th so not long to wait.

If you want to read through my 11 post Blog-writer play through, just click here!

Half Pregnant

They say you can’t be half pregnant.  This is what slows me down from blogging, the thought that you are either in or out. I’m on the line. It has been awhile since I have posted and like most excuses reasons, they are varied and plentiful. It was partly time, passion, focus, desire and gaming. The Pie chart would look like this:

I know. Fancy. I still read a lot of blogs but I used to dedicate some serious time to reading and writing. Hobbies are fun and all, but I found new ones that also took away my time. At one point I thought I would shutter the blog on my anniversary (August 27th, Happy 7th!) but that felt really melodramatic and over the top. Especially for something that I have loved so long. If I set it free I wasn’t so sure it would come back, and being a nostalgic fool that would be hard to handle.

I have really stepped up being healthy. I get up at 5:00 am everyday, have a coffee, read the news, and then work out. I track my progress and stay focused. I have lost a lot of bad weight and added good muscle weight. I also have been focusing a lot on my diet. I feel happier, healthier, stronger and more satisfied with how I feel. I think it might add years to my life. I still drink beer and eat bad food now and again, but it’s in balance. This does seriously cut into my gaming time as I used to play late night when my wife went to bed. With a 5:00 am wake up time, I know that time is better spent with the sleep I need. C’est la vie, something always has to give!

And yet here I am. A burning desire to belong to Blognation ™ and to write, and to game (and think about gaming). Here I am, half blog-pregnant.

But I have been gaming!

The Everquest TLP servers have been amazing. I finally stepped away after getting multiple toons into the 30s as there is a promise of a bot-free TLP coming around Christmas time. One character logged in at a time would really take away the distractions of having every named camp perma-camped by AFK mages. It is a big problem. Also, the single person running full raid teams. I am looking forward to really playing it again once they launch that server as interdependence and team play was key in the core experience. The best part about EQ TLP is that they did modernize grouping and looting, while retaining a lot of the magic. I just do not want to invest more time in characters that I will be leaving behind, and preserve much more of the core experience when I go back. They haven’t announced whether or not you can transfer there (guessing no) but if that announcement comes that you can I may continue a bit. Either way, strange to believe that my time in Everquest actually isn’t over after all these years – and in many ways it is the only place providing a satisfying MMO experience.

True to my word, I am playing WildStar again! I said I would go back when it went F2P and I am there. I am really enjoying the story line and even the 5 man adventures. I do plan to take one Exile and one Dominion to cap to experience the story. It is a fun, furiously-paced game and in many ways is EQ-opposite but a nice spacey distraction when I have 30 minutes to play. They have fixed a lot of what made that game less fun and it’s worth playing now that  you can do it at your own pace. I will be giving them some money soon, as I do like supporting games that provide me with fair entertainment for my time.

I also downloaded Project Reality 1.3, which is now a standalone product. I am hungry for a FPS experience and this one was the best one out there, so I am going back. The download just finished last night (all 6+ gigs) and really looking forward to carving out some time to play. It is another one of those games that really need you to dedicate distraction free and focused gaming to get the most out of (and give the most in). Project Reality has provided the best platform for  memorable FPS gaming and it’s gritty realistic and rewarding of patient game play (and team play) is completely different from the other options out there.

EQ tore me away from The Secret World and although I am only playing it for the single player experience, there is a lot left to enjoy there and I also recently updated it. I am still at the savage coast and a ton left there to explore as well.

Feels good to write and good to be back to pluck away at things.

The Hunt for Red V

Reading the Daybreak forums for progression servers I came across an update to the class stats from the post beta information. This one had more respondants of people who (seemingly) actually participated. It is also a fun way to look at what people say versus what they do. They are still very similar. I am not going to break it down at all, but linking to them here. And stealing a class graph picture for fun.

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So, basically, Mages are liars. I think we all knew that deep down. Due to the OPness of mages they are everywhere. The group that downed Nagafen was mostly mages. (Yes, Naggy is already dead.)

I finally did start my adventure on Ragefire, and did it by still not deciding what class I wanted to play. I quickly made several and started messing around early levels to see which fit. Wood Elf Druid made the most sense (due to my mostly solo-ish playstyle and desire to be wanted in group if/when I could) and as suspected that area was really busy. For fun I rolled a Gnome Shadowknight and Steamfont was also the busiest I have pretty much ever seen. Still, I did what I always do with my Gnome characters. I go hunting for Red V.

Braack was my EQ proper troll name but in my flurry of messing around with 6 characters I ran out of my standard names, so named my Gnome my Troll name. Not that I expect anyone to recognize me. Gnome Shadowknights weren’t possible in EQ classic (if I recall correctly?) so this is further proof that the progression server isn’t really class, you need Project 1999 for that.

Ak’Anon has a mechanical maintenance crew and the entire city has plenty of mechanical help. From Scrubbers to Sweepers to Guides you can’t walk very far without encountering a Mechanical friend. And like most technology, sometimes they go bad. When they do go bad the seem to congregate in the area where other ‘bad’ gnomes are, Necros and Shadowknights guildmasters. Those two groups live side by side. This is a great area to level as there are snakes, spiders, skeletons and rogue clockworks in abundance – and it is rarely overcamped. There is also a named that spawns (Red V) and when you kill him you get a box, that filled with 4 items (blackbox fragments) from the other clockworks makes a rusty box. This rusty box get’s turned into the GM of the Warriors (Malik) and you have a chance to get a really nice item. Also – while hunting down here, please remember to keep your scrap metal. You can turn that in accross the pond from the entrance to that area for faction, money, and more goods. I leveled to 5 in this space. Red V was camped by a cleric for a good while but he buffed me up (he was level 8, so they were very helpful) and let me cycle in for Red V now and again.

This reminded me of the good of grinding in an area. I didn’t have to read quest, run around, collect, run back, read quest.. I just stayed in an area and killed things. A lot of them. It’s a nice view.

There are a lot of “no drop” items that take up a lot of space if you aren’t careful so they are normally left on. After spending a couple hours in the same spot, doing the same thing, chatting with the dwarf I realized I was having a lot of fun. I didn’t need to be entertained or cut scened, just play, grind, xp, level, chat, and enjoy.  There is often a Zen to the right level of grind.

This play session also reminded me of some of the great parts about EQ. First, is no instancing (or at least, no real instancing. I hear they have some server version in the starter areas due to the server being at cap, but I haven’t seen that in play).

The three biggest I was reminded of:

  • Getting higher level buffs from higher level characters (my HP went up 30%, and AC up 15% from cleric buffs) and in most games they don’t want lower level characters having an ‘easier’ or ‘fun’ time leveling. In EQ, you could get great buffs that changed your power level. Nothing wrong with getting help from a veteran player.
  • Your items are your items – and you can give them away when you are done with them. Even to a lower level character who would then become more powerful as a result. Character locked items is one of the bigger failings of modern day MMOs. Especially in PVE games.
  • The Mob items are actually items. I spoke about this before and it is awesome. If the skeleton you are about to kill has a mace, or scythe in his hand(s) when you kill it is lootable. Such a small thing but very important for immersion.

What I wasn’t planning on is that I didn’t have the faction to turn in the quest. I didn’t quite realize how much SKs were hated by our close to kin Warrior brethren. I need to go grind faction to turn in the quest. Which means back to the mines, as the scrap metal quest is the only one nearby that gives Gemcutter faction. Looking at my items above all that armor was found on skeletons in the area, and raising 9 plat in a play session isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Solid haul.

I’m back and it’s fun. It’s really, really slow in comparison to what we are trained to like but it feels like a nice leisurely stroll into danger and death -instead of the normal sprint. How much endurance I have remains to be seen. I didn’t even really plan on playing the SK but once I got it in my head to complete the Red V quest I got into a zone. It is a quest an area I had done with all of my gnomes – even though the big winning item is the Bull Smasher – a small race only mace that is awesome. Even if you got that on your caster you could give it to your friend – or to one of your other characters. I also got a ton of bone chips which sells well to necros.

I went for maximum nostalgia on this one and really need to choose a character and class I plan on sticking to. Who knows, it might just end up being this guy.

Personal Easter Eggs

When questing in the Savage Coast in The Secret World I came across a gem during the Crime and Punishment quest line. This was after finding Sam Krieg’s fan mancave and hacking into his computer:

You can click on that to enlarge it to read it, but it is the quest text for the final part. The text is about Sam Krieg and reads:

“Born September 11, 1951; history teacher; married three times; Anne-Marie Ellsworth left him in 1983 (glastnost was a front); TV star Bobbi Mann (born Popescu!) left him in 1986; third wife, Elizabeth Galvan, died of breast cancer in 2002; writes letters to his dead wife; loves cashmere; hates the Habs; misanthrope; knows all about the darkness in our hearts; the cadence of shit; conspiracy buff; dominant theme in his novels: people pulled into the abyss; drinking problems; writers block; OCD.”

That description of Sam by his fan was priceless to me. “Hates the Habs”. Most hockey fans would get the reference. I am a huge Habs fan (origin: Les Habitants, ie: The Montreal Canadiens). Any good New England guy would naturally hate the Habs. The Boston Bruins are our most hated and heated rivals. Seeing it in there just tied more relevance and “reality” to the game for me. Of course, Sam Krieg, New England native would hate the Habs. I am just more impressed that a Norweigian quest writer would know that.

I am not sure how many hockey, Canadiens, or Bruins fans actually play(ed) TSW and hopefully that reference was not missed or lost upon the members of the Secret Societies. Sometimes it is the simple things that you learn to appreciate.

EQ Ragefire PRE Launch Class Survey Results

I haven’t started my adventures on the EQ progression server but wholly expect to this weekend. It is probably a good thing as well due to the slate of problems – the funniest of which, is a full server. For a 1999 game that still requires a subscription. Goes to show the strength of nostalgia.

I am still struggling with class choice – do I do something fully new and have a new adventure? Pick a class I am comfortable with so I don’t have to relearn everything? I enjoy playing most class styles and types but due to limited play times I do not get the benefit of working on several characters. This is why I fully appreciate MMOs that let you have one character and try different roles. Unfortunately, EQ is the furthest thing from that. Also, due to the extra, super slow leveling experience (yes, the extra extra emphasis is necessary) if I am going to have any fun and make any friends in game I am going to have to pick one and just go with it.

While pondering what to play I came across this survey conducted by a community member (totalimmortal) that statistically is +/-5% accurate (~400 respondents) which provides all sort of interesting information categorized in interesting ways. Including class, race, age, playtime, timezones, if they have a significant other and if that significant other supports their EQ progression server participation (I kid you not). Cool graphs and what not follow, taken directly from the link.

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I am surprised cleric is so high and same with enchanter – I never recalled the latter being a top class. I wonder how much of these responses are “what I think the server will need/want” versus “what I want”.

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Humans playing humans online. How boring! Gamers and their comfort zones. Put a tail on the Half Elf and I bet that shoots near the top. The only surprise for me here is that Erudite is so low, as they are the best magic casting human class and with Enchanter so high as a class choice I expected that to also be reflected. I do suppose that the Monk also impacts the human statistic since monks are human only.

There are a ton of other neat stats there so I encourage you to go visit. Here is my favorite insight though:

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With this news, that almost half of the entire interested population is going to leave sometime after TSS, which makes me wonder if they should ever get there. Still, that is 12 (I think?) expansions in. That will take some time to get to. As mentioned prior I love learning about class/race combos and stats and do believe all MMO companies should be forthright with that information. This isn’t post launch information but is still helpful for me to frame my own mind about who will be out in the EverQuest world.

After much thought I know that I will end up soloing a lot, so I need to lean towards a class that can do that well. That makes me lean magician, druid, or enchanter. Bards used to be decent soloists but here is the other problem – I don’t even really remember and updated 1999 information isn’t really a thing. I’ll have to Google Fu. Enchanters are always wanted in groups and I can be a Gnome which I am leaning towards heavily. Of course, I could just roll a Ranger because Wilhelm feels so strongly about them.

In the meantime, bring on the data. Hopefully by the time I figure out a class this weekend the servers will be both online and accessible.

 

Honest Kids

This Blog has always mostly been about gaming, some movies here and there, and other things like  TV shows. You know, the fun things to talk about. I even hit some political topics and generalities here and there. The blog subtitle is “Life and Interwebs” but mostly it has been about Interwebs. It works for me. Due to the fact that I am entering the dry season for gaming (summer summer summer time!) there will probably be a lot more dashes of “life” posts. My most exciting game right now is TSW and I am so far behind in it and learning the ropes there that I don’t have any interesting insights to share. I will be playing on the EQ Progression Server as soon as they figure out their stuff, and I’m due back in WildStar at some price point change. Just a heads up to expect more life posts. They were always supposed to be on equal footing here.

My son hates clementines. It drives me nuts, fruit is basically just candy that is good for you. We eat a lot of fruit in our house. Because I know he hates it, I try to shake him on that and often put them in his lunches. He never eats them, we discuss why, I reinforce my views that its delicious and good for you so try next time, life goes on. I have tried advanced methods such as pre-peeling them, taking off the white, stringy bits that I suspect turn him off from them, even washing them to make them shiny. I have (for either reasons unknown, or very silly reasons) made it a mission to make the kid like clementines. I am still shocked he doesn’t.

At one point last week when yet another freshly washed, peeled, plucked and separated clementine came home in his lunch pail I just wondered how he hasn’t learned how to lie yet. How easy would it be for him to throw it out at school and just say he ate it? Then we could skip our routine when he gets home where I ask why he didn’t eat it as he dumps the crusts and remains of his lunch pail into the garbage and he reminds me that he doesn’t like them.

Of course, he is only 10 so maybe he just hasn’t learned how to lie “right” yet. As an adult I its sad that I kind of expect to not get the truth. I forgot that at some point in life kids sort out it is easier to lie than face up to something – but before that point it isn’t even a consideration to not tell the truth.

Or, he is toying with me, and purposely doing it to show me who is really in charge.

Impressive, proud parent thinking either way.

(no, no clever gaming analogy to tie to this, just life and clementine musings. Although, I will probably stop bothering him about it now)

Gaming Week #20

While it may seem like perfect sense I didn’t realize that for reporting purposes people actually use week numbers. Last week was week #20 for the year and it has been awhile since I have shared what I am playing and figured it was a good way to start the week off. Canada had a long weekend – Victoria Day Weekend (The May two-four weekend, as it is commonly called) celebrating the life of Queen Victoria. Canada does holidays well, and the date changes every year but it is always the Monday before the 25th day of May – this ensures the long weekend status. Two-Four is also Canadian slang for a case of beer, since there are 24 beer in a standard case here. It reminds me of the quote “Education is important but hockey is importanter”. Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Where have I been spending (and not spending) my gaming time?

MLB The Show 2015 : Majority of time, but nearing completion

Well, I played three weeks of this title before calling it ‘mostly complete’. Sure, the game goes on indefinitely but in my second season of “Road To The Show” I was promoted from relief pitcher to starting pitcher one third of the way into the season. I pitched well enough on my remaining 20ish starts to win both the NL MVP and the Cy Young award. Those were always my goals in the game. I am still with the Nationals, I bargained hard for a huge pay increase (MVP plus CY Young should be 25+ million a year (Scherzer gets 30M annual and he didn’t win both of those awards in a season..)) but the Nats had a 510k option on me. They did offer a 5 year, 10 million deal but when I said I wanted a 5 year, 100 million dollar deal (a bargain, I assure you) they scoffed, and used their option on me. So I am playing the season mad at my club, and there is no holdout option. I’ll have to play the season but thankfully I am an unrestricted free agent at the end of it so I can go to where I please. My goal there is to get to the American League so I don’t have to worry about hitting. Screw you, baseball purists. I was playing this nightly but with my major goals accomplished, I may pitch a game or two a week to see what kind of salary I can pull in year three but for the most part this game is no longer my focus. It was fun, and highly recommended if you love baseball.

The Secret World : Back in the saddle

With Baseball monopolizing my time I haven’t played much TSW but I did carve out some time this weekend. I am going through every quest in every zone to experience it fully. This is one of those games that if you don’t do that you might miss out on a gem. I am pretty much finished the Savage Coast and already have my main quest-line pointing me to Blue Mountain, but a few side quests remain that I want to finish before moving on. A small annoyance here – I wish the mini map changed the color of quest givers based on status, so it is easy to see what is doable. For example – white – never completed. Yellow, completed once, repeatable. Black, completed, not repeatable. I am currently putting a map marker on each as I complete them (with the label “done”) to mark off which ones I have finished. I haven’t been able to find a mod to do what I want =) I am still using Sword/Fist and still have over 100 AP and 40 SP. The story is amazing. I feel like I have so far to go just to catch up but this is definitely a game that is rewarding to stop and smell the roses along the way (they usually smell like corpses, unfortunately).

Dragon Age Inquisition : Abandoned

I really enjoyed the game at the beginning but it quickly became “chore”-ish the way the game was fleshed out. The main enemy, once revealed, didn’t really intrigue me. Once I cleared out all the quests and sub-quests and challenges and flag markers/camps in four or five “zones” it felt like that was all I was going to end up doing for another hundred hours or so. I found the combat boring, and the wall of text texts on areas and items made me curious enough to read, but feel like my gaming sessions were turning into failed Oprah Book Clubs. Furthermore, relationship management with my team was like pulling teeth. Travelling to each one just to see if they have anything interesting to say to make sure you don’t miss anything  became entire play sessions. You would think they would sit around a small camp nice and easy for you to approach, but no, they have to spread to the four corners of the camp just to kill more time. I am shocked they just don’t approach you when they have something to add to the game play. The other shocker to me is that in a single player game, I can’t change my class. I rolled sword and board tank but want to play around with an archer class and I would have to re-roll (after 30 hours). It’s single player. Who cares. Let me change and try, and change back if I want to, or change to something else. Have an in game fee if you like or some “punishment” but still, this is complete silliness that you can’t do that. I would still have to worry about gear and learning how to play – but again, single player. Stupid barrier. I may go back if I run out of things to play, but the chances of that happening are slim. I still think the DA series failed by not giving you a persistent character across the trilogy (a la Mass Effect)

EQ Progression Server : Upcoming

The nostalgic fool that I am, I am jumping into this game. Tomorrow. I have no clue who else will be playing (I know both Wilhelm and Bhagpuss will be in some capacity) and I am still torn on race/class. I may be a Gnome (the same class I did beta with and the same avatar I was an EQ guide as) or may go Troll once again – although I do dislike the new Troll graphics. Guk and the swamp was where my quintessential MMO experience was fleshed out and truly born, while the Minotaur caves in Steamfont was one of my fondest gaming experiences. I’ll make up my mind at some point. How long I last in the classic world remains to be seen but I have to go even just to visit. It will be wonderful to see starting areas with population again. Nostalgia is always temporary fun.

Summer is here, and I garden (don’t laugh! The vegetable kind!) and play outside, and don’t focus a lot on gaming so the EQ thing has terrible timing.  There is so many games coming up that I am curious about but we will see how the summer unfolds.

History is Important

I appreciate learning the history of things. Often, I think this comes with age. It’s not enough to just live in moment amongst the new – a lot of amazing things have happened in our world. Learning about them is important. I travel quite a bit for work and pleasure and when I get an opportunity to learn about the origin of things I do. This sometimes runs contrary to my normal likes and dislikes. For example, on a recent trip to Nashville I did the Grand Ol Opry tour. I don’t even like country music. What I did like was learning about the history, joy, and importance of a single building that has been very important to country music. It was a couple hours very well spent. Hee Haw.

I find every time I open my mind to learning about the origins of something (anything really – from Steamwhistle to Tobasco Sauce to Mayan civilizations) I appreciate that thing more. Everything has an origin story and some capture and record it better than others. In the example above of Tobasco, they have a full time PHD historian tracking the efforts and actions of the founders of the brand and historical artifacts – of a hot sauce. It is actually a very cool story. Many do not have such care for the past and doing so  is a good thing in a ‘what have you done for me lately’ society.

So naturally, when Zubon posted about Dr. Bartle’s post I felt it important for me to also repost and link to it. I don’t normally repost a post linking another post but as menioned in the prior paragraphs history is important. History about something you genuinely have passion for feels even moreso. The passion I have for gaming is pretty much the main reason why I blog in the first place.

All of this is history that needs to be recorded. It’s just not right for pioneers to be forgotten merely because they didn’t make millions from it. There are games historians today who think that virtual worlds began with Ultima Online or (for bonus points!) Meridian 59. A hundred years from now, there may be young researchers who are arguing in their PhDs that World of Warcraft had something to do with it. I won’t care myself, of course, as I’ll be dead; I care right now that few people care right now, though.

Hopefully by sharing this other people will care.

I do, sir.

You Go WildStar

It’s videos like this that make me want to play WildStar again.

And then it’s announcements like this that remind me that this game should have changed it’s business model about a year ago. Which is prior to launch. Everybody knew there was no more room for a sub based game into today’s climate.

It doesn’t help that WildStar‘s numbers continue to fall, dropping 50% to a bit over $2 million in sales. This continues the downward trend established with the last financial report from the publisher.

I’ll go back and play it when they get to fixing the payment model, which feels like soon. However, there is a concerning thing here – the last numbers I could find on COH had it under 3M a quarter before it was shuttered.  Could WildStar face that fate instead?

I have written quite a bit about WildStar. I was one of those with high hopes for it. It came really close but fell short for me as a Dominion player who couldn’t find a guild or people to play with.

The only other thing stopping me from paying a subscription to WildStar (yes, I said the *S* word) is that I am now firmly in the camp of one character, many roles. (FF / TSW / GW2 / Etc.) Even watching that video I was thinking I would go back and play my Stalker! No, my Engineer! No, my Medic! No my.. dammit.. I didn’t settle in on one character class. I ended up playing the beginning planets 6 times looking to find my groove. I think that style of character progression now works best for me as I can play one character and get enjoyment of the full game, instead of running alts. I don’t have time for alts.

aint nobody got time for that animated GIF

So there it is. I hope to be back on Nexus someday.

alderaan animated GIF

Unless it ends up getting the CoH treatment from NCSoft. I just don’t believe they have recouped their investment yet, but I can’t see how 2M a quarter even covers salary for a game with major updates being released.

Sorry for the GIFS. I wrote this end of day for me and my mind was feeling mushy.

 

Bite Sized Gaming

A Bhagpuss musing over at a post about MMO monogamy at Bio Break

“I would really love some genuinely casual MMOs to come along where I can play for half an hour and see satisfying, meaningful character progression. Don’t believe it will ever happen though.”

Fear not Bhagpuss, there is definitely room for that style. I am playing a certain title right now, that I get to log in for 20-40 minutes, have a LOT of fun, AND also have meaningful character progression! I even wrote about it recently. Yup, baseball! I wrote about this as well in 2010 when I first noticed the gameplay. This style is also found in multiple sports formats. What is brilliant about this format is that you only play the exact plays your character is involved in. This makes a three and a half hour baseball game take about 30 minutes as a starting pitcher. It’s far, far less as a position player (pitchers only play ever couple of games in relief, and start every 5 games)

Currently, I have a right handed relief pitcher for the Washington Nationals (MLB The Show), who got his first start in the big leagues. I pitched a complete game, 1 hit shutout, and received 1215 points to improve my character. I also have a backup goaltender for the San Jose Sharks (NHL 2015), and my son recently signed a minor league deal in FIFA 2015. While I haven’t bought American football games for a while I am aware they had the same kind of personal player development (even to the next level, in NFL 2006 I think I got a small part in a movie for my quarterback..) All bite sized gaming, all meaningful progression towards small goals (character improvement) and larger ones (having your team making the playoffs / win championships) and even amazingly huge goals (get inducted into the sports hall of fame).

Of course, I suppose that you might actually have to like sports to play these games. But at least there is a proof of concept to work towards. Sure, these are single player games but I think MMOs could take a page out of the style and make a title or two. Probably through Kickstarter. And while it is not an MMO, it isn’t any much different than playing MMOs as single player RPGs which is pretty much the norm anyway, and pretty much my only experience in the excellent title The Secret World.

This style and kind of gaming is really important for me now because as Liore discusses Time Management and Gaming there just aren’t enough hours in the day to game, and how is that prioritized with family, work, etc. I thought I would share my day yesterday, and I expect it to be just as normal and busy as all of yours. Once it is dissected though you see there isn’t a lot of time for personal gaming in a family and work environment.

  • 6:30 wake up. Feed dogs, take them outside. Make breakfast.
  • 7:30 pack lunches, change, get ready for work, get the kid on his bus
  • 8:30 arrive to work
  • 5:30 leave work
  • 6:00 cook dinner
  • 7:00 play frisbee with the kid, shoot hoops
  • 7:30 watch first period of NHL playoff game (actual game, Rangers v Capitals) with the kid
  • 9:00 pitch a digital baseball game
  • 9:30 Work out
  • 10:45 watch rest of NHL game, plus overtime
  • 11:30 shower
  • Midnight bed

There isn’t really anything I can cut out there to get more gaming time unless I sacrifice time with my son or my workout time.  And while that was my my full day yesterday often there is evening work instead of gaming or hockey playoffs, but really, during the week there isn’t much time to be a gamer – unless I start waking up earlier, or going to bed later. Is sleep really that important?

Goalie Equipment and Mask Design

I am not sure if I have mentioned it here before, but I am a hockey goaltender. I spent my life playing the position and even now that I cracked the big four oh, I still play two to three times a week (in the winter). It’s fun exercise, allows me to still draw on my competitive nature, and overall, sit and have a beer with the guys a few times a week. Being a hockey goalie tends to come with certain expectations – one being that we are all crazy because we like vulcanized rubber hurdled in our direction at 100+ MPH (and we try to get in the way with it). I’ve had my own superstitions over the years and still dress left side first, every game. Heck, even my warm up stretches haven’t changed since I was sixteen years old. I can’t argue about there being screws loose. I mean, you have read some of my articles, haven’t you?

I have worn NHL pro level gear my entire hockey life. I was fortunate to have access to it. The gear that I have worn for the last eight years smells like it has been worn for eight years. Part of it is held together with duct and hockey tape. I have far outworn the lifetime of the gear but at the same time it just worked for me and of course had a lot of magic in it. Still, it’s time this year, with my 50/50 winnings from my fabled Les Habitants, I am replacing ALL of my gear. Although I am not playing pro level hockey I am still in two competitive leagues and I figured I will try to play for the rest of my life – so I am buying pro level gear, one more time. Part of me is really excited because the technology has changed so much – cross crease slides should be quicker and pucks should sting less (yes, the do hurt when hitting certain parts). So that is exciting. One change that will be REALLY weird for me is that in order to help increase scoring in the NHL a few years ago they made the maximum pad width 11″ – down from 12″. I am still using 12″ pads. From what I heard from my goalie brethren it actually increases agility by decreasing weight so it is a net benefit. Sorry for my ramble, I am guessing this isn’t nearly as exciting for you as it is for me.

Most of my gear (pads, glove, blocker) will be predominantly white. An optomistrist did a study and sorted out that white pads are harder to tell where the edges are for a shooter making a decision, and as such more pucks hit the pads. The stats on Marc Andre Fleury in white pads versus his yellow pads is astonishing! Still, I wanted a bit of color. My team colors are yellow, white and black so I opted for a simple white pad with black accent. Of course, to make it match, I did the same color pattern with glove and blocker. Below is what has been ordered.

Maybe you will recognize the design. Never a bad idea to duplicate the best goalie in the world, right?

It’s simple and fits my style. I am looking forward to stopping pucks with them. This leads to the big, fun question! My current mask is a custom 1999 Ed Cubberly. Ed used to make masks for such NHL greats as Mike Richter and Kirk McClean, but he has retired. My mask is heavy compared to the composite kevlar styles made today and with my mask needing repairs just to be safe, I decided it is time to upgrade that as well. To stick with my theme, I went with CCM.

The huge problem is, it’s all white. I need to get it painted. My last mask was actually worn in the NHL by a Carolina Hurricane and so I had those colors and styles. For this one I get to be creative! The thing is, I am not a very creative person by nature. Goalie masks are very personal and usually you have the graphics represent you (or the team you are playing for). I play for three separate teams, so the team angle doesn’t work. I could pick my favorite hockey team (the Habs) but they are red and blue as colors and that would clash pretty bad with my yellow and black gear and jerseys. So I am looking to BlogNation for inspiration and ideas! Here are some I would tack onto my idea board:

One of my favourite comic book characters, and as a solid piece of metal and strength could also easily represent “shutting the door” in net and stopping pucks. The yellow and X Men symbol would also fit nicely. Sticking with the superhero theme:

Gambit is another of my favorites, is pretty agile, and also can integrate the X-Men logo and theme. Not so sure about the pink though. Last but not least on the X-Men:

Yellow and dark blue/black, is an iconic Canadian superhero, and who doesn’t love wolverine? He is ranked third behind the two above however in terms of my superhero preference.

Other, non-superhero inspirations:

I love Calvin and Hobbes. My tatto is of Hobbes leaping accross my leg (as if he was to pounce on Calvin). I kind of like this face for the side of the mask as it is almost like a taunt to a player after a big save. My son thinks the following could look pretty cool:

The colors definitely fit the theme, but I was never a big transformers fan. Those are just color and theme inspirations, they wouldn’t be things decal’ed directly on. Here are some goalie masks in action to show the type of creativity that is done in this regard.

It’s pretty much an art form now.

So – do you have any ideas? Any preferences on the style board items I have shown? I would love to get some community opinions and thoughts!

Talkback Challenge #1 : How GamerGate Affected Me

I have mostly avoided participating in the major discussion threads surrounding #Gamergate for the sole reason that I find the internet a terrible place to have meaningful, open discussion on serious and important topics. I realize how silly that is as someone who blogs quite regularly and participates in a lot of blogs – perhaps I should rephrase. I find people intolerant of differences of opinions. Rightly or wrongly – it feels like when people are debating in written form it is for the sole purpose of proving they are right, or winning, versus learning, being open minded, moving the discussion forward in a positive and constructive manner, and sharing healthy discourse. I find pubs and beer is a much  better avenue for open, honest, and engaging debate. Still, I did touch upon my thoughts on it in two posts. One, captured it all quite perfectly through comedy on the Colbert Report:

My personal favourite moment is when Colbert compares the worry about what would happen to serious journalistic outlets such as Hollywood reporting (8:45) – TMZ, Entertainment tonight (etc.) if they too had ethics issues like Gaming journalism. I have missed that argument around all of the Gamergate “controversy” – most news sources we consume are pretty clear on their biases. It seems as though they are trying less to hide it, and at bare minimum the educated parts of society know the influences behind news reporting.

I love how comedy can often make more sense out of tough topics than serious discussion. I did write a more serious post about sensationalism in writing and shared what I feel the most simplest form of it all was – how it was trying to label me.

On that note on everything related to Gamergate I need to share a small part of what is important to me about it. And that is that I won’t be defined by labels. period. Being a gamer isn’t negative or positive anymore than being a man, or being black, or being a lesbian is negative or positive. Equating the word “gamer” to “misogynist” or “racist” or any negative connotation is entirely irresponsible. A gamer is someone who games, nothing more, nothing less. The label doesn’t mean who you are. Your actions – how you treat people and what you personally represent – does.

I have been very consistent with the viewpoint that the world doesn’t need big heroes, it really needs a lot (like, millions) of regular people just being a bit nicer to each other. That is how the human race can truly change the world. Celebrities have a fraction of the power as a community working together. Holding doors open, saying ‘Thank You’ to strangers, helping out locally, and being open minded and understanding that we are not going to agree on everything and be tolerant of other viewpoints. Especially when they aren’t harmful or endangering.

Izlain’s talkback challenge was to share how #Gamergate affected me, not how I wrote about it. And, the  truth is it did very little to nothing.  I followed it closely and read a lot of posts but I felt that a paragraph here or there on the topic couldn’t do it justice, or wouldn’t be complete enough, easily counter argued and/or picked apart. I also do not write essay style posts here as it is a very relaxed and conversational blog and I did not feel like having to defend myself or worry about “winning” the argument. All that being said it does not mean I am not sensitive to the issues and problems  and I do believe change is good in this industry – I constantly argue here that the gaming industry is incredibly immature – and that is scary for a multi-billion dollar business. What I worry about is gaming hasn’t even sorted out how to reward and support long term employment and stability for the industry, let alone tackle serious gender representation issues. I believe it will all come in time and people are right to fight to speed that up when they are really passionate about it. People are also right to fight to ensure freedom of speech is safe even if it isn’t the popular opinion.

Now, at this point, you could try and argue that by me not taking a big stand (either way) that I am making the problem worse, not better. And to that I say stop trying to win an argument on the internet. I live my life with a mind and heart on equality. I learned this when I went to a liberal arts university in Canada in the 90s – and the university was ‘famous’ for it’s gay and lesbian population. Not that percentage wise it was any higher than any other Canadian campus, but that they were more free to be open about their sexuality. It was common to see same sex couples holding hands around campus – and in the 90s, this wasn’t as common as it is today.  I learned a lot there as a young adult growing into manhood and one of the defining moments that I recall strongly was a “Take Back the Night” rally – where hundreds of women would march down the streets of the city to show they weren’t afraid – and wanted the freedom and safety to walk at night. Something so simple that many men take for granted. Being a young idealist at the time, I wanted to help out! I wanted to support this movement and show solidarity with my sisters. The only thing I was allowed to do to support?  Help clean up the next day. They didn’t want male participation. Men where the ones causing fear for women to walk at night for fear of sexual assault (or worse). This was a women only march. I was pretty mad at first. I am not the problem. I didn’t assault women – I was the help and support walking my female friends home so they were safe. I supported their cause and understood their fear – not from experience, but because I had a lot of women friends who would share their feelings with me. Even though I was the one walking them home at night to be safe, the fact that they needed a man to do that at all to feel safe was the core of the problem to begin with. I was disappointed in what I was being told but in the end I did what they asked of me and grabbed a broom. I learned that day that even though I personally wasn’t the problem I still represented it, and that if I pushed the issue and walked the streets with them I was still taking away the empowerment they so badly wanted (and deserved). So I did the next best thing I could. I helped clean up.

Ever since then I have lived my life trying to learn and be open and do the right thing. I didn’t fight for or against #Gamergate online because the battle was crazy and both sides often being completely intolerant and silly to each other. The signal to noise ratio of meaningful or constructive discussion was near impossible to find. So I hit “like” on the posts I read that I liked, and ignored the troll bait, stunts and senseless arguments that was also abundant. And throughout all of that reading continued to live my life as the best person I could to the human beings I came in contact with in my everyday life.

#Gamergate didn’t affect me, but it reminded me of how far we have to go as human beings to be good to one another.

Support Project Reality!

I haven’t played PR for a couple of years (I haven’t played any PC FPSs in the same token) but I have written 6 posts that mentioned PR since 2010. I still believe it is the best shooter ever created for in depth realism, tactics, and genuine squad play that is completely absent in pretty much every other available shooter today. It is a community built mod and runs both on ARMA 2 and BF2 (I played the BF2 version) and Project Reality owns pretty much all of my FPS wow moments. I can’t recommend it enough

They are even talking about building a standalone product, of which I am anxiously awaiting. Since the game is mostly a labor of love they haven’t committed to a time frame.

I check in now and again to see what is new in Project Reality, and was sad to see the following announcement when I visited today.

The Project Reality Team is currently in a financial crisis and needs your support to help keep Project Reality alive!

The Project Reality Team develops modifications and games that are completely free for its community to download and play. The cost of Project Reality’s web server, domain names, code signing certificate, etc. however are not free. On average, it cost the team around $400 a month to keep developing Project Reality! Recently, our Google AdSense account was suspended for violation Google’s very strict content policy. This, along with not meeting our donation goals over the past couple of months, has caused our available funds to become dangerously low. Our dedicated community is still very strong and now more than ever we need your support to keep Project Reality going!

PR has been up and going for 10 years, so to see it in such trouble is disappointing. Still, I know some things have a life cycle and hopefully this isn’t the end for Project Reality.

Besides, what other shooter actually bothers to put in Canadian forces? Not even in snow gear!

So, I ask you to check it out and consider helping out. If you are one of those people who love kickstarting new shiny things, why not spend a little bit to help an older, beautiful thing keep going a while longer? While it is nice to build new skyscrapers keeping old castles around to enjoy is just as important.

AAA Ball

Unlike the silliness of the term ‘AAA’ in video games AAA in baseball means the last step before the big leagues. And that is exactly where my right handed pitcher is during his climb to The Show – the PS4 MLB 15 version. I haven’t played a baseball game since 2012 and even back then I was very enthused with the RPG elements. No different here. Part of the reason why I bought the PS4 was so I could play the uncontested champion of baseball games and I am really glad to be back into it.

“Road to the Show” is the only game style I have played. It’s perfect, since you only control the plays your player is involved in. That still means 6 (ahem) to 9 (yay!) innings of pitching, depending on how I am making out. My son made a second baseman and it’s funny to see that he can be done a full game in 6 plays. Three at bats, and three fielding situations. This makes the long, 162 game season far more manageable. I couldn’t imagine having to play all of those innings. It also lends perspective on how much players make. Robinson Canoe, the top paid 2nd baseman this year would have made around $25,000 per play in that same situation.

One clever thing they did (in Canada, anyway) was nationalize the cover. I am pretty certain the catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays was not the cover star in Texas. Still, there was Russell Martin staring at me at my local Best Buy.

It is subtle touches like that that I really appreciate as a consumer. This wasn’t needed to make me buy the game, but by putting my favourite team’s best off season acquisition (and a Canadian player, to boot) on the cover really shows they are making the effort to talk to me as a consumer. Now, if only he could raise his batting average above .200 once we get out of April. Still, this is why baseball is awesome. He has another 140 games to fix that.

The game itself honestly didn’t blow me away as I first expected. The visuals are good, the baseball play is very solid (which is the most important) and they did put a lot of effort into making things more realistic. This is especially true that each stadium now has a sun cycle and shading that mirrors the actual ball parks. That is very cool, but I don’t notice a lot of it as a pitcher. For me I am just really excited to get back into a baseball game and especially one that I get to choose where and how to improve my player.

I was drafted by the Washington Nationals and I already asked for a trade. I don’t think the GM was very happy with me for doing that (probably not common for a minor league player asking for a trade after their first year) but hey, I eventually plan to hire Scott Boras so this is in line with expectations and behaviors from that camp. I’m in the middle of spring training of my second year and they have me middle relieving. Middle relieving!! Clearly they didn’t watch my four complete game shutouts with the Syracuse Chiefs. I will be a starter in the bigs, and I will get a Cy Young to my name. It just may take time, patience, and a beginner pitcher game options setting.

*as per the ‘Read the post and get $$$’ tag, I won a Google Play $15 card in the USA on my trip! Unfortunately, I live in Canada so I can’t redeem it. If you want to win the $15 card, just make a comment below and I’ll randomly draw from the group! Baseball related comments – why you love (or hate) the game, your favorite team, etc.